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In The News

Developer applies for federal permits
Houses, offices planned for Redwood City land

By Shaun Bishop
The Daily News, 11/13/09

The firm that wants to develop 1,436 acres of Cargill’s salt flats in Redwood City isn’t sitting idle while the city makes it jump through hoops.

DMB Associates this week submitted documents to apply for necessary permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over U.S. waterways and wetlands.

Company officials said Thursday the move is a preliminary step toward approval of their “50/50 Balanced Plan,” which proposes up to 12,000 homes, 1 million square feet of office space, 50 acres of playing fields, a 200-acre park and 436 acres of wetlands on a site used for salt harvesting for decades.

DMB and Cargill submitted their application to the city in May, and consultants for the city are reviewing it for completeness.

The city would have to approve the project before the Army Corps even considers issuing permits — a process that could take years — but the developer wants to begin sharing information now with other agencies that likely will be involved, said David Smith, vice president of regulatory affairs for DMB.

“We want these processes to go in parallel, so as we have these discussions, everybody’s on the same page,” Smith said. “If something happens with the city, for example, where the plan evolves somehow — who knows how — it makes all the sense in the world to have the Corps involved at the same time.”

DMB and Cargill asked the Corps for a “preliminary jurisdictional determination,” a nonbinding statement declaring whether the Corps has jurisdiction over the site based on federal laws, including the Clean Water Act and Rivers and Harbors Act. DMB has not yet applied for permits under those acts.

The Corps’ San Francisco office received the request Thursday but has not begun to review it, said J.D. Hardesty, chief of public affairs.

Cargill has long argued that its 1,436 acres in Redwood City do not fall under the federal government’s regulatory authority, Smith said. Still, it decided to initiate the permit process without conceding the jurisdictional question, Smith said.

“We get that the agencies don’t agree,” Smith said. “Rather than spending months or years fighting it, our view is the 50/50 Balanced Plan and redevelopment of the site is permittable, so we’d rather just move forward.”

Other outside agencies, including the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are expected to weigh in on Cargill’s plans at some point.

Opponents of the plan contend DMB and Cargill shouldn’t get permits from the Corps and other regulators to build on the site because it was historically wetlands and should be entirely restored.

“There’s no way the plan they’ve put forward is permittable,” said David Lewis, executive director of Save the Bay.


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